Airline Industry Accounts for 2% of Global Warming, CO2 Emissions

I’m attending a forum on IT Government Leadership learning about the NextGen program from the FAA. This billion dollar program is modernizing our airline transportation through GPS, weather forecasting, digitizing the analog, and much much more.

The environmental impact of this program primarily concerns fuel use. Doing so though updating and simplifying flight routes, allowing for glide paths to landings (instead of stop-n-go). The net benefit should mean lower fuel costs for airlines, maybe lower ticket prices, and definitely less fuel use. This picture highlights the expected fuel and time savings of the program:

Environmental Impact of NextGen FAA Airline Modernization Program

The NextGen program takes their commitment to the environment one step further focusing on expected growth and global warming.

“The net system-wide effect cannot be offset by increased growth. Additional measures are needed, and we are aggressively pursuing these measures under NextGen.”

This means quieter and cleaner aircraft using clean energy and a portfolio program “to mature and accelerate promising new technologies”. They are also partnering with the ICAO and international aviation group bringing together the world’s airlines to focus on Global Warming.

The ICAO presents the data sets that show the airline industry contributing 2% of global warming. The FAA has partnered with this group to commit to increasing fuel efficiency by 2% every year from 2009 to 2050.

These days it is still surprising to find groups like these working towards saving the planet, but someday soon it will not be surprising it will be expected.

Michael Pollan on the Rising Food Movement in the NY Review of Books

“The First Lady has effectively shifted the conversation about diet from the industry’s preferred ground of “personal responsibility” and exercise to a frank discussion of the way food is produced and marketed. “We need you not just to tweak around the edges,” she told the assembled food makers, “but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.”

In his latest essay, The Food Movement, Rising, Michael Pollan chronicles the rise of the Food Movement. It’s a 5,400 word piece in the New York Review of Books that moves from the roots of the movements, to challenging today’s leaders, and, as always, encouraging us to join in.

A striking point comes when he calls out Al Gore for missing the critical role that agriculture plays in global warming. Citing his book/movie/presentation, An Inconvenient Truth,  for making “scant mention of food or agriculture”. Even though our food system makes up one-fifth of American fossil fuel use. Further, it emits an incredible amount of greenhouse gas even thought “(it) is the one human system that should be able to substantially rely on photosynthesis” (i.e. solar energy).

The health industry is also in the center of his piece, citing that 3/4 of all health care spending treats diet related diseases (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and at least a third of all cancers).

“The health care crisis probably cannot be addressed without addressing the catastrophe of the American diet, and that diet is the direct (even if unintended) result of the way that our agriculture and food industries have been organized.”

Oddly, the good news portion of his essay comes from the government. The FDA is “cracking down on deceptive marketing”, the DOJ is “avowing” to “pursue antitrust” issues, and even the conservative USDA is getting involved. Most importantly, though, is Michelle Obama’s work. As the cited above her direct statements and in-the-field work seem to be having the greatest impact.

“Mrs. Obama explicitly rejected the conventional argument that the food industry is merely giving people the sugary, fatty, and salty foods they want, contending that the industry “doesn’t just respond to people’s natural inclinations—it also actually helps to shape them,” through the ways it creates products and markets them.”

My favorite part about Michael Pollan’s writing are always his euphoric references to our food future. Yes, there are problems and people are suffering, but the light at the end of the tunnel is awe inspiring.

“The food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure…”

I love how he interweaves politics and beliefs into the piece (conservative libertarianism, comunitarian?). Then moves to explore the backlash against consumerism, “an attempt to redefine, or escape, the traditional role of consumer has become an important aspiration of the food movement”.

Finally, a solid reference to our beloved Farmers Markets:

…an activity that a great many people enjoy…(someone) is playing music. Children are everywhere, sampling fresh produce, talking to farmers. Friends and acquaintances stop to chat. One sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket.

The piece is well worth reading: The Food Movement, Rising by Michael Pollan